SMYRNA — Jenna Hedgepath was calm and collected at first.
But once she walked to the Smyrna Bowling Center concourse and began finding family members, she let the emotions out.
There were plenty of hugs and tears to follow.
“I hugged my mom, my (grandma and grandpa), my dad,” Hedgepath said. “I hugged just about everyone.”
The Lipscomb Academy senior and Vanderbilt signee capped her high school career with a second TSSAA individual state title, winning the Division II championship at Smyrna Bowling Center with a decisive 222-168 victory against St. Benedict’s Tori Moore.
Hedgepath won a state title her sophomore season, but entered this week motivated after a runner-up finish last year.
She won in dominant fashion with nine strikes in the final game, including four straight to end it.
“It felt so good to go out with a bang,” she said.
Individual finals are structured with six bowlers in a “ladder” format, meaning the winner of the No. 5 vs. No. 6 seed moves on to play the No. 4 seed until someone faces the top seed.
Hedgepath had never been a top seed until this year.
“I was always No. 2, so I was grinding against the No. 3 seed and then facing the No. 1 in the championship match. This year I wanted to change it up. I wanted to guarantee first or second place,” Hedgepath said. “I actually ended up liking it so much better.”
It worked to her advantage. Moore was on her 11th game of the day after fighting through the bracket as the No. 6 seed.
“I finally felt comfortable. I really wanted to win and wanted it so badly that I let it get to me (during the semifinals earlier in the day),” Hedgepath said. “Finally at the championship match I just threw the ball how I always had and left it all out on the lanes.”
Next, she’ll try to help Vanderbilt add to its 2018 and 2007 national championships.
“Hopefully we can win another one,” Hedgepath said.
The Division II state championships were owned by Nashville-area bowlers after Donelson Christian Academy junior Connor Thomas claimed a 224-150 victory in the boys final over top-seeded Finn Donnelly from Pope Prep.
A couple miscues by Donnelly early in the game helped open the door for Thomas to snare his first title. Thomas was 16 pins shy of reaching the top six as an eighth-grader and has worked ever since to reach the championship game.
“The last couple years I just started grinding and practicing as hard as I can to accomplish this,” Thomas said.
In Division I boys, Lebanon senior Jackson McRae fell just short of reaching the final game as the No. 2 seed, falling to eventual champion Cameron Compton from Hixson.
Stewarts Creek junior Bricey Caudill was in a similar situation as a No. 4 seed, falling to eventual Division I girls champion Millie Bromley in the second-to-last game.
Team championships will be conducted at Smyrna Bowling Center on Thursday and Friday.